The Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN1, also known as the Women’s Caucus, is committed to uphold and ensure the following three Principles:

  • Human Rights For All Above All, particularly for the more vulnerable, marginalised, disadvantaged women and girl children;
  • Ensure Accountability to Women and the Peoples of Southeast Asia through independent, transparent, effective and responsive processes and structures which are consistent with Member States’ human rights obligations to protect, promote, fulfil and realise the human rights of women. This includes extraterritorial obligations and recognition of primacy of human rights over and above other obligations;
  • Meaningful and Substantive Participation and Representation of Women in ASEAN which is inclusive and representative of the diverse and multiple sectors of society aimed at eliminating discrimination and ensuring substantive equality of all women in Southeast Asia.

Guiding Standards

In its submission towards the development of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), the Women’s Caucus proposes the following Guiding Standards:

  • Recalling and reaffirming respect for all international human rights principles including universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
  • Emphasizing obligations of member states as duty-bearers in exercising due diligence towards effective implementation of human rights standards.
  • Recognising duty of all member states to uphold rule of law and adhere to principles of good governance and democracy2;
  • Reaffirming the principles of right to life and human dignity as inalienable and non-derogable rights under international law and the duty of member states to promote social justice;
  • Recognising the need for adoption of people centred3 approach for the greater benefit of ASEAN community;

In specific reference to the following:

  •     Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  •     Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
  •     Convention on the Rights of the Child
  •     Beijing Platform for Action
  •     Vienna Declaration on Human Rights and Program of Action
  •     ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women
  •     Mandate and Terms of Reference of the ASEAN Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children
  •     Declaration on the Advancement of Women in the ASEAN Region
  •     ASEAN Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons Particularly Women and Children
  •     Declaration on the Elimination of Welfare and Development of ASEAN Women and Children
  •     ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers
  •     Constitutions of ASEAN Member States
  •     Other international human rights instruments

Human Rights

The Women’s Caucus encourages the drafting committee to consider the inclusion, inter alia, of the following Human Rights:

1. Equality and Non-Discrimination
a. All women and men are born free and equal in dignity and rights, with the guarantee of free and full exercise of their rights in the public as well as private sphere. They should act towards one another in a spirit of solidarity.
b. No person shall be discriminated against directly or indirectly, by public or private actors, on any ground whatsoever, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, political or other opinion, national or social origin, social and economic status, marital status, age, disability, ethnicity, religion, nationality, language, birth or any other condition.
c. States shall guarantee equal protection and benefit of law to all persons.
d. States must acknowledge intersectional identities resulting in multiple discrimination, and historical impact of discriminatory laws, policies and practices resulting in unequal status between men and women towards adopting a substantive equality approach. States shall not only ensure equality in opportunity but equality of results through means including but not limited to temporary special measures and such measures shall not be considered discrimination under clause 1(b).
2. States shall have the obligation to protect, promote and fulfil all human rights with a standard of due diligence, including the obligation to eliminate, reduce and mitigate the incidence and consequences of discrimination by private persons and entities.

In acknowledgement of harmful effects of violence against women and its role as barrier in enjoyment of right to life with dignity, states shall institutionalise mechanisms which prevent, prosecute, punish, and provide remedies for any infringement of human rights by both state and non-state actors in private or in public.

3. Everyone has the right to access the public sphere, social protection measures, financial resources, information and technologies on the basis of justiciable, fair and equal access.
a. Everyone has the right to access natural resources such as land, water systems and other resources as well as derivative public services such as water, energy and transportation.
b. Everyone has the right to food sovereignty.4
c. Everyone has the right to access social protection services such as affordable and effective health care, including sexual and reproductive health, adequate and affordable housing and education be it formal, informal and traditional.
d. Everyone has the right to access financial resources such bank loans, mortgages and other forms of financial credit especially for poor and marginalized groups and reparations such as those arising from harmful developmental projects and disproportionate impact of climate change.
e. Everyone has the right to access information in the spirit of good governance, accountability and transparency.
f. Everyone has the right to access and benefit from innovative technologies, especially those which have been developed with public resources.

4. Everyone has equal rights to access to justice which includes procedural and substantive justice in both formal and informal justice systems, with the principles of equality and non-discrimination before the law, in particular among the poor and disadvantaged groups and their access to fair, effective, and accountable mechanisms for the protection of their human rights.

5. Every adult has the right to decent work; free choice of work; protection against unemployment; safe, equal and satisfactory working conditions; a living wage and adequate benefits especially for women workers. States must ensure adequate and effective social protection measures to adults who are engaged in informal work and implement appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure equality of men and women.

6. Everyone has the right to be free from any forms of violence, exploitation and other forms of abuse, including those related to women human rights defenders and media representations, in both the public and the private spheres. All forms of violence against women constitute a violation of human rights.

7. Everyone has the right to communicate one’s ideas, opinions and aspirations with individuals, the State and non-State actors freely and securely in both the public and the private spheres, using any language and media. States must ensure the free flow of information and pursue the expansion of the public domain of knowledge.

8. Everyone has the right to freedom of association and to organise collectively.

9. Everyone has the right to meaningfully participate in all spheres of social and community life including political processes, peace negotiation processes and decision-making processes in both the public and the private spheres.

10. Everyone has the right to integrity, peace and security.

11. Women and men have the same rights and roles in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women: including the same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount.

12. Everyone has the right to have a name and citizenship. This human right must not be negatively affected by marriage. States must ensure that indigenous peoples, marriage migrants, children of mixed heritage, orphans, internally displaced persons and refugees are formally documented and afforded citizenship.

13. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement.

14. Every individual and community has the right to self determination.
a. Every individual is free to decide over one’s identities, body such as the exercise of one’s exercise of one’s sexual and reproductive rights, relationships, mobility and future.
b. Slavery, servitude and the traffic of persons in any form, including those which take place within family relationships and in domestic employment, are prohibited.
c. Every community is free to envision its development and the means to pursue this while ensuring observance of individual and collective human rights, rule of law and environmental integrity.

15. All human beings and nations within ASEAN have the right to equal and sustainable human development and enjoy its benefits. The human right to development also implies the full realisation of the right to national and community sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources. Decisions regarding national priorities and allocation of resources must prioritise eradication of poverty and the full realisation of human rights.

16. Every individual and community has the right to survive and cope with disasters and climate change. Marginalised and/or affected individuals and communities on their own or through the States must be free to demand and access climate justice.5 All persons have the right to participate actively in local, national and international environmental management and education.

Framework for Human Rights Cooperation

Premised on the principle of equality and elimination of discrimination, ASEAN member states shall undertake initiatives to ensure the effective implementation of the AHRD through the development of a framework for human rights cooperation by recognising the importance of regional, international and national cooperation and its promotion, in support of national efforts for the realisation of the objectives and purposes of the AHRD, and shall undertake the following measures which shall include, inter alia:

Regional Level:

To facilitate, support and ensure coherence and cohesiveness within ASEAN, particularly within the human rights bodies (eg. the AICHR, ACWC, ACMW) towards the protection and promotion of human rights of individuals and peoples in ASEAN, including women and marginalised groups and to develop substantive, procedural and institutional framework for cooperation amongst the relevant bodies.
While recognising the AICHR as the overarching human rights institution in ASEAN with overall responsibility for the promotion and protection of human rights in ASEAN, it is of paramount importance to recognise the role of the ACWC as a specialised body focusing on the human rights of women and children.
The human rights bodies, inter alia, to ensure complimentarity, coherence and cohesiveness of policies and programmes of ASEAN sectoral bodies, coordinating councils and other structures, entities and processes of ASEAN aimed at promoting and protecting the human rights of individuals and peoples of ASEAN.

International Level:

ASEAN member states to establish coordination and cooperation arrangements at the regional and international levels such as with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights regional and global offices, United Nations (UN) human rights bodies and mechanisms, and agencies like UN Women as well as with other regional structures and entities such as the European Union, Inter-American systems and the African Union and civil society organisations, including inter alia:
a. Ensuring that international cooperation, including development and trade agreements and programmes, are in adherence to fundamental and universal principles of human rights; and
b. Facilitating and supporting capacity-building, including through the exchange and sharing of experience, information, training programmes and good practices aimed at promoting and protecting the human rights of individuals and peoples.

National Level:

The provisions of the articles on regional and international cooperation are without prejudice to the obligations of each ASEAN member state in fulfilling its obligations under the AHRD. There shall be cohesive and coherent framework for human rights cooperation between ASEAN, particularly the human rights bodies, inter alia:
a. With all relevant State machineries, including the ASEAN national secretariats, ministries, inter and intra departments and between all member states of ASEAN;
b. With the national human rights institutions (NHRIs), including with specialised national agencies on women. The member states to also facilitate the establishment of independent NHRIs, particularly specialised institutions on women to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights;
c. With close and regular consultations with civil society organisations including those who are involved in advocating for the protection and promotion of women’s human rights to ensure meaningful, substantive and full participation and representation of peoples of ASEAN, including women, in all stages and initiatives of ASEAN. This shall include measures to ensure the protection of human rights defenders including those who provide information to and participate in processes of ASEAN and its human rights mechanisms.


1 The Women’s Caucus has identified the following themes and issues, as informed by diverse feminists and women’s human rights groups across Southeast Asia: Violence Against Women, Political Participation, Economic Participation, Migration and Discriminatory Laws.

2 Democracy shall be understood as promotion of self governance on the basis of popular sovereignty, political equality of all citizens, and free and fair electoral processes.

3 Signifying participation, representation and inclusion of civil society in all matters relating to the preservation, strengthening and development of the ASEAN Community.

4 Food sovereignty refers to the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems and policies against unfair trade.

5 Climate justice is the moral and ethical responsibility over climate change as triggered by the historical and aggressive exploitation of natural resources and climate systems primarily by the developing countries and private companies especially those in the global North and as disproportionally affecting communities in the global South.

6 Elements adopted from the CEDAW Application Framework (CAF) developed by IWRAW Asia Pacific, August 2007

7 Sources of State obligation under CEDAW: Article 2, 3, and GR 25.

8 Sources of State obligation under CEDAW: Article 2, 3, 7, 24, GR 6.

9 Elements adopted from the CEDAW Application Framework (CAF) developed by IWRAW Asia Pacific, August 2007

10 Sources of State obligation under CEDAW: Articles 2 (preamble para), 3, 18, 22.

11 Sources of State obligation under CEDAW: GR 9, GR 23 (para 48d), GR 12 (specifically in relation to violence against women), GR 14 (specifically in relation to female circumcision), GR 16 (specifically in relation to unpaid women workers).

12 Sources of State obligation under CEDAW: Articles 2, 3 and GR 9

13Sources of State obligation under CEDAW: Article 3, and GR 6.

14 Sources of State obligation under CEDAW: Articles 2 (preamble para), 3, 18, 24]